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tv   CNN Newsroom  CNN  December 18, 2011 7:00pm-8:00pm PST

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album produced by you, quincy jones or an oscar, which would he go for? >> i think he'd go for the grammy because he really wants me to sing. >> i think you should do it. when you make the album iwant the first interview with your dad. >> deal. >> shake on it. where i come from, that's better than blood. rashida jones, thank you. >> it's been a pleasure. thanks for having me. tonight -- street beating. outrage over a woman's savage beating in egypt. >> i saw an old lady bleeding and they were still beating her until she apologized. prongets testers storm the streets after these images are broadcast around the world. set on fire. a 73-year-old woman burned to death as she tried to go home. police have a suspect, but why did he do it? american history. you saw it live here on cnn.
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the last american combat troops leave iraq. we'll show you the end of a war. pedal to the metal. get behind the wheel with us in one of the most popular video games on the market. we'll drive the mario cart tonight. >> you are bringing a video game to life. >> it's all right here, right now on cnn. hello, everyone. i'm don lemon. thank you for joining us. welcome to our viewers around the world. you're in the "cnn newsroom." a landmark moment for the united states. after nearly nine years, 4,500 american lives lost, 30,000 more injured, the iraq war is over. now that the last remaining u.s. troops have left the country. cnn was there when the final convoy rolled across the border into kuwait. this is how it all played out live on cnn on this show last night. this is breaking news hala, and it is history. the war in iraq is officially over. u.s. troops are moving across
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the border into kuwait now. >> and what this means is that really the last vehicle and the last convoy of the last, last, last anything you can imagine in terms of the military is crossing into kuwait. >> here's the first truck now. it's probably -- this vehicle here is probably part of the route clearance element that comes through ahead of each series and makes sure that the road is clear. and behind those vehicles is going to be the last of the u.s. military presence or fighting presence in iraq. there's about 500 soldiers who have come over, men and women who have been coming over during the night. these are going to be the last of these. it's been quite an historic moment and a very emotional moment around here overnight. but this is the last of the last coming up behind me right now, hala. certainly after nearly nine years, 4,500 u.s. military deaths, 30,000-plus wounded and,
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of course, nearly a trillion dollars, this is now the very end as these guys come across. until they are about 800 meters away from here, everything was on the quiet. we weren't allowed to report anything. but now these guys are considered safe. and they are considered now crossing into kuwaiti territory. there's a bit of a no man's land. an iraqi checkpoint about 800 meters on the other side of that gate. and the actual border is about -- i suppose about ten meters or so inside that gate. so once they were past the iraqi end, one of the generals, general buchanan came over and said embargo is lifted and we were able to come to you. you can see the vehicles coming across now. the massive strykers who have been covering this war for so many years. we spent a lot of time in those vehicles themselves. and you can see them coming across. >> just earlier in the month there were 12,000 people at camp adar and it dwindled down to about 2,500.
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is anybody there now except for iraqi forces? >> no, there are not. there are no americans left on that base anymore. in fact, you say 12,000. a short time ago there were 3,000 there a day or so ago. that's how quickly they've moved out these final elements of u.s. presence here in iraq. >> is this the last convoy truck behind you? they are closing the gate. >> yep, the gate is closing. the gate is closing. so this is the last vehicle, fittingly, perhaps, it is an mrap, one of the signature vehicles of this war brought in when the roadside bombs became so ubiquitous. let's just listen as this truck drives past. the gates are now closed. the last u.s. soldier is out of iraq. other than those who are going to be involved with embassy duties and the like.
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so history in the making. of course, the conversation you've been having and that we should continue to have, of course is the iraq that they are leaving behind. an iraq where it may not be officially at war, but it's certainly a long way from being at peace. >> joining us now is iraq's former national security adviser, rubai. he's in baghdad. what are your thoughts today. you're watching these images on your tv screen ipresume, right now. what is going through your mind as you watch this, mr. rubai? >> well, the onset, i have to say that a big, big thank you to the united states of america for bringing down saddam hussein. horrible, brutal regime just ended nine years ago. what happened after the -- after bringing down saddam hussein was a lot of collateral damages on
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the iraqi side. and i think this is a jubilant moment. and we feel in iraq that we own the country now. we regain our country. we have now our sovereignty and independence completely. and we -- the sense of belonging is now sky high to iraq. and we believe that we are on the right track. >> we want to go to egypt now where the flare up of violence in cairo is troubling u.s. officials. secretary of state hillary clinton urged egypt's government to show restraint but neither police nor protesters appear to be willing to back down. new graphic pictures are just adding to the public anger. i have to warn you, the video is very disturbing. a journalist describes the scene in cairo. >> since we spoke, the clashes
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have still been ongoing between the protesters and police and the army. today the video we acquired, cnn, the video of the woman that was beaten severely and stripped of substantial amount of her clothes, i spoke to the man who filmed the video and he was very devastated because when he was filming, he saw how brutal. they were beating elderly, children and the girl herself was extremely beaten. just now i spoke to a friend of hers, and she told me that the girl does not want to speak to the media. she's worried that the situation might be escalated. her parents still don't even know what happened to her. they don't know she's the one in the video. especially that picture has been on the front page of several newspapers here in cairo and it has fueled a lot of rage. >> i also asks them about a cairo library that was torched, burning 213-year-old manu scripts that officials say are
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irreplaceable. >> the library, i was there at the site today what happened. it's a 200-year-old library with manuscripts that cannot be replaced. today there was a rescue mission ongoing as we speak. many protesters and residents have been trying to salvage whatever is left from these books and manuscripts that clearly a big loss to egypt as a nation and, you know, they are trying to save whatever they can. the church is helping, the mosques are helping and it's basically finger pointing. again, the military saying the protesters caused the loss and the protesters are saying the military caused the loss because the military was on the rooftop of the library building throwing chairs and glass bottles at the protesters. so they were responding back with molotov cocktails and rocks. >> and that was muhammad fadel reporting on the chaos raging in cairo. breaking news now. something that is going on in
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north korea. you see that picture. you know him. it's kim jong-il. south korean -- a south korean news organization is reporting that north korean television is saying that north korean leader kim jong-il has died. pyongyang again, state television making that announcement. that's according to south korean, a south korean news organization. this is a live picture and that's all, am i correct, that the north korean television is showing. they just have a picture up of kim jong-il. they say that the veteran leader died at about 8:30 a.m. on december 17th and that the announcement was made by a weeping announcer on television. but this is all north korean television is showing is just a picture of the supreme leader kim jong-il. so there are news organizations there that are reporting that kim jong-il has died. our international wing of cnn working on information. we will get more to you within
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this broadcast. but again, this is what's being reported. north korean leader kim jong-il has died. cnn checking to verify all of that information. make sure you stay with us. we want to go to the philippines where the death toll is rising rapidly from a devastating tropical storm that engulfed the islands this weekend. more than 650 people are now confirmed dead. at least 125,000 people have been displaced or otherwise impacted. soldiers are still searching for the hundreds still missing. some help is getting to the victims and the u.s. has offered to help with the recovery. turning to a story that has profoundly disturbed so many of us today. new york police have arrested a man suspected of dousing an elderly woman with gasoline and setting her on fire. jerome isaac turned himself in to police. the story of what he allegedly did to 73-year-old delores gillespie has stunned the entire city and now the world. wabc's kimberly richardson has more on the arrest and the reaction of gillespie's
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neighbors. >> that's what hurts me so because i was home. >> here inside a fifth floor apartment across from this elevator, its walted are melted, ceiling and doors charred. the only clean spot where delores gillespie fell as fire engulfed her body and slowly killed her. >> they said she was screaming theattop of her lungs, and i didn't hear it. so i just feel that god didn't want me to intervene. >> reporter: it's a mind boggling crime that has bothered everyone who knew delores. how police say saturday afternoon jerome isaac first waited for the 73-year-old on the fifth floor and as she stepped out of the elevator sprayed her with gasoline and then lit her on fire. delores hired isaac, the man known here for collecting bottles in the street, to help unclutter her apartment. her son maurice. >> he was stealing from her. he was in her house stealing all her stuff. she started coming around harassing.
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he left notes on the door. he'd been there many times. >> friends say badgering her for money she didn't owe him. >> i asked her, did she take care of the business about the guy. you know, that's doing this to her. and she said, you know, that she's not worried about it anymore. >> sources tell eyewitness news after isaac killed delores he returned home to this building around the corner to his apartment where he started another fire. neighbors describe a door on the second floor that is clearly burnt. sources say isaac, who wreaked of accelerant, then turned himself in to this nypd transit station and confessed to everything before being transferred to the 77 precinct. >> for that little bit of money? why? she wasn't a bad person. she didn't deserve that. >> that was wabc's kimberly richardson reporting from new york. here's our breaking news right here on cnn. it's really not that much to tell you but it is big breaking
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news. kim jong-il, according to korean news organizations, has passed away. a south korean news organization is reporting -- i know it's a little complex here but the south korean news organization reporting that north korean television has said that kim jong-il has died and the announcement apparently was made by a weeping announcer today. they said he died on december 17th, which would have been yesterday. 8:30 a.m. and that is a picture that you are looking at. believe it or not, this is north korean television and that's all they're showing now. north korea very restricted and kim jong-il is a big part of that. so again, this is what we know. cnn is working to verify this. if you look at the left side of your screen. this is north korean television that they are reporting. and if we can just listen in to see the tone of what she is reporting.
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and you can see that she is very upset which is why i wanted to listen to it that she's very upset as she is reading this. so again, north korean television is saying the supreme leader kim jong-il has died. born in 1941. that would make him 70 years old. february 1941. february 16th, as a matter of fact. it's believed kim jong-il, north korean leader, died yesterday, december 17th, 8:30 a.m. we're working to verify that here at cnn. so stay tuned. we will bring you more, and we will monitor north korean television on this matter. we have other news to report as we work on that tonight. the high school football game gets national television, but not because of the game. an out-of-control cart plows into some people on the field. you'll see the entire video next. and it's $1,000 in your pocket but only if congress can make a deal. what do you think the chances are of that happening? v neck 3 piece suit dance wear bolo snakeskin boots sequin costume under things
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all right. breaking news right now on cnn. i'm don lemon. i want to welcome our viewers from around the world. we're getting reports from north korean television that kim jong-il is dead. cnn's wolf blitzer joins us now. wolf, you were in north korea very recently. before i get to you, wolf, i want to tell you that i'm hearing the south korean government is in emergency response status after the death of kim jong-il. wolf, you were there recently. >> i was there last december. i spent six days in pyongyang. i went with former u.s. ambassador to the united nations bill richardson. and at the time, the assumption was that kim jong-il was sick, but that he was in decent shape. this is almost exactly a year ago when i was there.
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they were getting ready for a succession to his son. he had been making appearances and over the past year has been making a few appearances, although it's obviously a totally uncertain situation that's unfolding now because no one really has a good appreciation of the inner workings of what's going to happen inside north korea. reminds me of when his father died. we were uncertain what was going to happen. kim jong-il did eventually take over and he continued. the communist totalitarian regime. we don't know what's going to happen now. there's not a whole lot of intelligence, a whole lot of information. but i'm sure there's going to be a period of nervousness to see what happens on the korean peninsula. and let's not forget, this is still one of the most dangerous areas in the world. we have a million north korean troops north of the demilitarized zone. nearly a million south korean troops south of the zone and it's a very tough situation.
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>> and, wolf, i'm getting -- this is the time when we're reporting, we're catching people up on monday morning on what they can expect because the asian markets start to open. the asian shares outside of japan, they experienced extended losses upon the death of kim jong-il. so this has global implications. it also has implications when it comes to the economy. as you said, we don't really know what's going to happen as far as the succession plan and what this means for a country that is so restricted if it's going to open up or what it means. and again, wolf, this information is just coming in. it's just being reported by south korean television as to what is happening on north korean television as far as that announcement. >> right. it's a very early development, but it shouldn't come as a complete surprise because for the last few years, there have been numerous reports that kim jong-il was ill. we didn't exactly know the extent of the illness, but at
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least within the past year, year and a half, the process of beginning a succession has begun to go forward quietly behind the scenes. it's very secretive, closed society in north korea. that was evident to me when i was there during those six days. it's been evident to the whole world in trying to read the tea leaves on what's going on inside north korea even for real korean experts of which i'm not one. but real korean experts, you speak to three or four of them and you get three or four different analyses of what's going on inside north korea. and a lot of these so-called experts have never even been to north korea so they don't necessarily have an appreciation of what's going on. certainly it's a very serious situation right now. and as i was saying earlier, the korean peninsula has been extremely tense. still very tense a year ago. there were exchanges between north and south korea. artillery and all sorts of
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incidents. the sinking of a south korean war ship boo ty the north korea. so this is a situation that the u.s., indeed all of asia, will be watching very closely. there are nearly 30,000 u.s. troops along the demilitarized zone, the dmz between north and south korea. so you have the potential there for a lot of nervousness right now. and i assume there's a process going forward. i assume -- >> so the rest of the leadership, i'm sure they have a plan but let's see how it unfolds. no one is going to be more nervous right now than south korea. they'll be watching this very, very closely because they, obviously, have the most at stake in this situation. >> wolf, you know, i'm glad you said that. as i said just before introducing you, south korean -- >> it's an emergency response status right now. >> elise, we'll get to you in a minute. we can hear you. >> south korean government is on emergency response status, wonderful after the announcement of kim jong-il's death.
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>> yeah, i am looking at the video that we're showing. you know, you go to north korea and you have all sorts of preconceptions of what's going on and you think the leadership there the elite are totally isolated. but i can assure you they are not. many of these people that i met with and when i was there with governor richardson in december of last year, they are fully informed about what's going on. they are pretty sophisticated. many of them actually even speak english. they watch the world and they have a pretty good appreciation. these are not completely isolated individuals from the outside world. some of the top negotiators spent a lot of quality time outside the -- one of the chief nuclear negotiators, for example, spent five years in london as the north korean ambassador in london. so what impressed me, and i remember at the time i did a one-hour documentary on cnn inside north korea that they are pretty knowledgeable about what's going on.
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pretty sophisticated. and they are obviously deeply committed communists and have a very closed regime. 99% of the people have no idea what's going on but the leadership inside north korea clearly knows what's going on but they are all very, very one -- unanimous in their support of kim jong-il. now if, in fact, these reports coming out of north korean tv and south korean tv are true, then, obviously, this is a huge, huge deal. the transition process is going to be a period of quite serious attention on the korean peninsula. >> wolf blitzer joining us. wolf, stand by. we're going to get back to you. in the meantime, we're going to get more information as we find out more on the death of kim jong-il. we're going to join cnn international in progress. john voss reporting now. >> will he actually be in control? there's always been some speculation it will in fact, be his uncle who may be calling the shots, even though it is the son who is a figure head. it will be his older uncle who
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will essentially be the power behind the throne if you like. >> you're right there, john. to identify the uncle is interesting. he's the husband of kim jong-il's sister and has occupied various senior positions within the military. you are right. has been identified as a person lurking behind the scenes who could potentially wield great power. also jim jong-un did accompany his father on a trip to china, almost an introduction to the chinese leadership. and while it was the only trip, there have been regular meetings between the chinese leadership, chinese envoys who have been going back and forth into north korea. so those lines of communication are not just one way. obviously, they work two ways. and china has had a pretty direct line in there and has sent envoys back and forth for some time. as has the united states. the united states has had envoys going in there for discussions as well. so, yes, they'd be aware of him. they'd be aware of the situation. and to the extent that the chinese were able to manage an
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orderly transition, that certainly had some plans or contingencies in place. the difficulty here is the unpredictability. and while we point to the relationship between north korea and china as being a profound one and a close one, north korea has angered china in the past with some of its belligerence and behavior, had taken china by surprise. i remember many years ago when i was reporting here for the beginning of the six-party talks. remember when north korea carried out a nuclear test right on the eve of chinese new year and the chinese were said to be unaware of that. something that was embarrassing. they didn't know about it. the fact it came chinese new year as well which is a period of celebration here. was seen to have angered them. so there is the unpredictability. the other thing is that we've been very quick in the west over the years to lampoon kim jong-il as almost a figure of fun and there he is with his massive
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media -- his massive movie library, rather. his love of ballroom dancing, the bufont hairdo, the story of his birth under a story in a mountain in a shack almost sort of biblical birth that has been seen as a myth when in fact, he was more likely to have been born in the soviet union while his father was there. >> don't forget the 18 holes in one day on a golf trip. >> the world champion golfer. but while it's very easy to lampoon him, this is someone who was seen of successive leaders in the united states. someone who has been able to negotiate and certainly seems to negotiate at the highest level. north korea has been given some grudging respect, if you like, for its ability to use the six-party talks to its advantage. >> yeah. >> has always been able to give a little and pull back at the last minute to keep that process -- keep that process
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going. so he's a very wily character. when we look at any successor, who is going to bring the same charisma, the sense of leadership, the direct connection, of course, to his father who is the eternal president of north korea and be able to negotiation that very precarious position that north korea is in and still manage to survive. with his demise it raises all questions not just about succession but the potential survival of the regime itself without that figure head. without that character who for all of his eccentricity was seen to be a survivor and play one end off the other. >> he's always had this ability to play one weak hand off the other. what he's done well is that the kim family business in north korea is staying in power. and i think what we're now looking at here is, will that continue? has there been enough time to establish kim jong-un?
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because when kim jong-il was by his father's side. have to be remembered that kim il-sung his father was much loved by north koreans and because he had a very prosperous time when he was leading the country because it was said to being bankrolled by the soviet union. in the early days, north korea was actually doing better than south korea. the south koreans used to look to the north with envy. it was only in the latter parts of, you know, the 1990s when kim jong-il actually took over and everything fell apart and the soviet union collapsed and they were no longer being bank rolled that the country fell into mass poverty and had 2 million people dying from famine. you've had all the problems which have beset the country in the past 15, 20 years or so. but this is a country with huge, huge problems. right now, there are people starving in the countryside. they have a shortage of electricity. they are essentially working from an egrarrian situation out in the countryside.
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once you get away from pyongyang. and so being able to keep that together and being able to make it a smooth transition without the unrest, without a challenge from the military generals who may now be thinking this is a good time to maybe launch some kind of grab for power, these are the uncertainties. and i think many people have questioned whether or not kim jong-un, just a young man. we don't really even know his age. we think he's late 20s. is he capable of doing this? i think there are very serious doubts about that. >> yeah, there certainly are. it's interesting that you talk about the situation within the country. once you move out of pyongyang, which, of course, a showcase capital and that's what people see when they are taken on those orchestrated visits. you do get out into a situation where you find people and these stories have been substantiated over the years of having to boil down back of trees just to be able to make something that might be edible.
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i remember a few years ago when i was up on the border of north korea and china. this is a very porous border. the river there you could almost hop across the rocks and get across the other side. it is that narrow. what was really interesting was on the chinese side you had a bustling border city, fully lit. on the other side, complete darkness. and the only light i could see was about 100 or 200 meters in the distance and it was a light illuminating a large portrait of kim jong-il. the other really interesting thing was just on the north korean side of that border, all of the grass, all of the tall grass was around six feet high. and i wondered why that -- why that was. until i saw rustling in the grass it was like seeing stars at night. once you see one you see 100. but it was bristling with north korean soldiers who were moving just below the height of that grass.
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foxholes set alongside the river there, all waiting for people who may make a dash across the other side. i met a young woman who did manage to escape. she had actually been sold into a marriage up there. she had a liver problem and was dumped by her family because she just simply was no use to them. she couldn't bear children and couldn't work in the fields. she managed to escape. she managed to get on the other side where she was intercepted by kidnappers. they sold her into a marriage with a chinese man. she managed to buy herself out of that marriage when the -- some of herre relatives living the chinese side. she lived in perpetual fear in a one-bedroom flat for fear she'd be picked up, sent across the border and executed. that is the fear that so many people live with on that border area. and as you've identified, john if there is to be a collapse of the regime inside, so many of those people are likely to make
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a run for that border, and that's going to be a problem for china. the last thing china wants, the last thing china likes is any form of unpredictability, anything outside of their control and the prospect of masses of north koreans heading across that very, very narrow river into the chinese side of the border is really a potential disaster along that area. how china reacts to that, of course is going to be absolutely critical. and kim jong-un, you're right. what do we know about this man? at various stages, other sons have been put forward as potential successors and have fallen by the wayside. kim jong-un according to some reports had some education in europe, in switzerland. he's been, as you say, introduced over the past couple of years alongside his father. but it certainly isn't the apprenticeship that kim jong-il enjoyed. kim jong-il was first anointed back in 1980. he then started to occupy various positions within the military leadership. and, of course, served his
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father upon his father's death. intriguing, though, even his presidency was -- his leadership -- he wasn't president. his leadership was a leadership with training wheels. his father was the eternal president. even -- >> remains president today. >> his father still remains president today in death. so as you move down the line of succession you move on to another man. less equipped. certainly younger. we know very little of him and he's going to come in and try to impose a rule over some of these generals who have been occupying positions of power and are directly centered or work right alongside not just kim jong-il but his son. >> we have it also on the line from the state department. before we get to elise, we have a little more information coming to us from north korean state media about the actual cause of death. he suffered acute myocardial infraction complicated with a serious heart shock. he was on a train december 17th.
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he was apparently during a field guidance tour. so they say. take that for what it's worth. every possible first aid measure was taken immediately but he passed away at 8:30 in the morning, december 17, local time, north korea. an autopsy the following day confirmed the diagnosis of his diseases. elise, our state department senior producer joins us on the line now. elise, any word there, any reaction in the state department? if none is coming at this hour, what will it be when it does come? >> well, right now, john, as you can imagine, u.s. really trying to get its own independent confirmation. obviously, not a whole lot of communication between the u.s. and north korea. they do have some low level contacts but it's not as if the north korean -- the united states is on speed dial. they're going to be the first person that they call. so i'm hearing from a senior state department officials. they are trying to independently confirm. we don't expect that the state
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department or the white house will make any official reaction tonight. obviously, over the next coming days, they are going to try to really fine tune, really calibrate the response and how they are going to react to not only the death of kim jong-il, who is, as we've been talking about, a very popular figure in the country and really a cult-like status. but also how they are going to embrace the new leader and what the pace and the process of this engagement is going to be. the state department, the obama administration has been really careful to keep the lines of communication open with the administration, with the north koreans. >> looks like we've lost elise there on the line. we'll try and get her back because what i would like to find out now as far as the u.s. is concerned, and one question which i think many people may be asking is will the united states see the death of kim jong-il and
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the ascension of his son kim jong-un as a moment of opportunity to try and thaw out what is essentially a relationship which has been in the deep freeze for many, many years or will it be more of the same or how will this relationship now change? let's go back to stan grant who i hope is still on the line with us in beijing. stan, one -- the other question, too, is, of course, the country which is most immediately affected by this will be south korea. could you confirm for us what their reaction has been because my understanding was always that if something like this was going to happen in the eventuation of any kind of uncertainty about the regime in north korea, the south koreans automatically then go on a state of heightened military alert. do we know if that has happened yet? stan? >> sorry, john. i just missed that question there. i think you were mentioning that whether south korea goes on to a
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high military alert. i certainly can't confirm that. we've heard nothing directly out of them. obviously, this is a situation that they have well prepared for. there's a big u.s. military presence and has been for decades now in south korea. so, obviously, that's got to be an implication there. i was on a battleship just last year after that skirmish between north korea and south korea up on the north korean border when north korea shalled yeonpyeong island. i was with the u.s. aircraft carrier carrying out exercises in that region. what was really intriguing there was just how much they were able to see into the north korean side. if you looked on to their radars at the time it was scanning right across north korea. they had full access to it and they could certainly see any military build-up on that side. but, yes, north korea and south korea have had this uneasy relationship. they've tried to broach some
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sort of reproachment. that's come to nothing. last year, of course it came right to the brink when yeonpyeong island was attacked. there's always a state of ready innocence south korea. the military is always on the alert in that area. up on the demilitarized zone, both north korean and south korean are able to eyeball each other. propaganda broadcast on loud speakers across that area. and, indeed, there have been skirmishes there over the years as well. so south korea has lived in a state of heightened alert ever since the cease-fire of the korean war. there is no declared peace. there is no peace treaty. and this situation, obviously, would continue now. of course it goes to a whole new level. >> okay, stan. and just to bring you up to date with some news we're getting from the reuters news agency. south korea's military has been put on emergency alert following the report of kim jong-il's death. we're also hearing from jan
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happen that the funeral will be held on december 28th and perhaps an indication of what is to come. kim jung-un has been named head of the funeral committee. wolf blitzer was recently, as in a few months ago, i believe in north korea. maybe it was a little longer than that. wolf, you can clarify that for us. we heard a little earlier from elise labbott saying the state department still trying to get a handle on what to make of this news. how do you see it playing out? wolf, do you think they'll see this as a moment of opportunity or more of just the same? >> they'll try to take advantage of it as a moment of opportunity. the problem is that no one really knows how the son is going to operate. how much influence he's going to have. is he just going to be a figure head? is he really going to have any power? he's really young. nobody knows for sure how old he was. i was in north korea in
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pyongyang, exactly a year ago right now. i went with a form u.s. ambassador to the united nations, bill richardson. it was an extremely tense time when there was shelling and shortly after the north koreans destroyed a south korean war ship and everyone was on high, high alert. fortunately, i believe the richardson mission to north korea calmed the situation down a bit and things got back to relatively stable situation. relatively normal for as far as north and south korean relations are concerned. and u.s. relations. they haven't really improved but they've stabilized to a certain degree. when i was there, everybody knew that kim jong-il had been very ill and had a bunch of ailments. he did make some appearances but they were grooming kim jong-un his son to be the successor. everyone thought he was 27, 28, 29 years old. we weren't exactly sure how old he was.
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he had spent a year or two studying in switzerland, spoke some english but it's so secretive the society that that leadership, we really don't know for sure. and everybody had their own speculation. but as i say, it looks like -- it seems at least on the surface, to me, that they've made a pretty dramatic announcement. they have established that there's going to be a funeral. they've said that kim jong-un will be in charge of the funeral and presumably will be in charge of the regime, at least at the top leadership. but there will be a circle of senior people who will be in charge of what's going on. it will be -- i think it's obvious, a period of tension on the korean peninsula. and whenever that level of tension increases, it's a source of concern for the world because there are still a million north korean troops north of the demilitarized zone. nearly a million south korean troops. some 25,000 to 30,000 american
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troops right in the middle of all of that. just south of the dmz and north korea has its nuclear capability, as all of us know. so the japanese, the south koreans, china, everybody will be watching, russia and, of course, the united states has a lot at stake in that part of the world. so get ready to be nervous for several days if not weeks or months. >> absolutely. >> we want to go now to mike chinoy who joins us from los angeles. a former senior asian correspondent for cnn. he's currently a senior fellow with the u.s./china institute. been to north korea 15 times, as recently as august. mike, there are few people i can think of that know north korea better than you. just tell us what will happen in the next couple of days. okay, mike?
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are you there? okay. we've got a few problems with mike chinoy. who would have thought a phone connection to los angeles would have been a difficulty. we'll try and work that out now. luckily, we still have elise labott on the line from the state department. and elise, wolf was saying earlier this could be a moment of opportunity for the united states. one question, though, obviously, is the six-party nuclear talks now. all bets are off. they're going nowhere for the foreseeable future. >> well, i mean, and they were, john, actually showing some progress. i mean, the north koreans met last month. and actually in october in geneva. nuclear envoys from washington. and they met in october. no breakthroughs but they were still anticipating a third round of talks. and even last week, glen davies, the u.s. negotiator for north
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korea, the new negotiator taking over from steven bosworth met in pyongyang with north korean officials about restarting some kind of food aid. so the u.s. has really tried to make some opening in recent months. specifically for the reason that they knew that the succession was coming. they wanted to keep open lines of communication. not just for the old leadership, but for the new leadership that's coming. they really don't know what to expect from kim jong-un. could he be a more benevolent leader? nobody knows as we've been saying. could he be even more provocative, more unpredictable leader than his father? nobody really knows. so they really wanted to keep their options open. and as we've been saying, it could be an opportunity. it could also be a dead end. and i think that's what the u.s. is really going to be looking at over the next couple of days to see how can they fine tune their engagement, their outreach. how can they calibrate it so
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that they don't send the wrong messages at this very critical, very tenuous time, john? >> elise, stay with us. i just want to recap if people are joining us right now. word coming to us from north korea, from official state media inside north korea that kim jong-il, the dear leader, died of a massive heart attack on a train on saturday. that's coming from north korea's news agency. an autopsy carried out the following day confirmed the cause of death. still no word on who will take his place, but it has long been assumed his son, the mysterious son kim jong-un will, in fact, take over. the first indkagication that wi be the case is that he's been put in charge of a long list of officials who will make up the funeral committee, indicating he will be in charge of that, that he will then eventually take over the country. elise, is there a cribs note at all, a cheat sheet if you like on what we know about jim jokim
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jong-un or is he just a complete mystery to everyone outside of north korea? >> i think he's a complete mystery. as we've been talking about, i guess you can google him and i think everyone has the same amount of information that he went to school in switzerland. that he's been tutoring at his father's side. that he likes nike basketball shoes. there are just very few morsels of information about him. and we do know that he's been given all these new titles. he's been showing some more -- >> we don't really know if he's actually making decisions, but he has been purported to be in a much more senior position than he has been. since the quote/unquote succession plan has been announced. >> i want to get back to you. you were in north korea, as you say, pretty much a year ago now.
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when you were there, we all knew that kim jong-il was in bad health. he suffered a stroke. he lost a lot of weight. he wasn't looking particularly healthy. was there any indication to you of tensions amongst the officials that they were making this transition -- i mean just simple physical signs of even putting up posters of kim jong-un next to kim jong-il. did you see any of those indications? >> no. we were restricted. obviously, we had enormous restrictions, where we could go, with whom we could speak. but i did have a chance to speak with the foreign minister, the chief nuclear negotiator. everyone just below the very, very top. ki kim jong-il and kim jong-un who was being groomed to take over. everyone knew kim jong-il was sick. we didn't know the extent of how long he could survive. he's obviously lasted a year after my visit there and, once again iwas covering governor
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bill richardson's visit. it was a time are very, very -- a very, very severe tension along the korean peninsula. having said all of that there was no signs that i got that there was any tension with kim jong-un. it seemed like everyone was on board. that this is who kim jong-il wanted and as a result, this was the guy who was going to be taking over and by all accounts it looks like that's going to happen within days now, now that it's confirmed that kim jong-il is dead. >> wolf, stay with us. we now have, i'm told, mike chinoy back with us on the phone. mike iga mike, i gave you quite the build-up before. there is no one i know that knows more about north korea than you. you there were 15 times. what do you suppose will happen in the next couple of days and maybe go beyond that. what do you think? >> well, i think in the next couple of days, you're going to have the preparations for a funeral. i gather that kim jong-il's son kim jong-un has been named the
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head of the funeral committee. he's clearly the designated successor. i think in the short run, the system is going to continue, more or less as is. this has been in place for a while. the fact that a year ago in october that kim jong-un was unveiled at this big meeting of senior government party and military officials. i think would indicate that the ruling elite across the board were more or less agreed on this dynastic succession. so i think in the short run, it's going to be not business as usual because this is a huge shock psychologically and to the north korean system. but i think things will just carry on. the deeper questions come over the long term in the sense that kim jong-un is very young. he is still quite inexperienced. not very much is known about him. and so there are lots of
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questions about what he's going to do. will he be able to consolidate his power? will he be essentially a figure head and there will be some kind of regent figure? when i was in pyongyang in august, the -- one of the chinese ambassador was -- who had been at -- to north korea, who had been at meetings with him was reported to have described him as a quiet, thoughtful, polite young man who attended these meetings with senior leaders along with his father. didn't say very much. just listened. absorbing what he was -- what he was learning. so he's still in very much of a learning mode. and there were lots of questions about whether he'll be able to make his will felt throughout the north korean system. i think it's also important, though, people are going to start talking about, is north korea going to collapse? is this the end of north korea? i think it's way too early to
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talk about that. not least because the chinese have made a very clear decision in the last year, 18 months that propping up north korea is in their strategic interest. they have significantly increased their economic engagement with the north koreans, in spite of the fact there are technically still international sanctions against the north for its nuclear tests. the chinese are not going to let north korea go down. and i think that's a very, very important factor. i think they are well aware that if it crashes and burns that none of them have any future, particularly not in the united korea in which south korea absorbs north korea. so i think the north koreans will be sending out mixed signal s
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incremental progress in laying the ground work for resumption of the that nobody should -- they just don't have time that somehow they -- they are a soft target. some of these initiatives, very clear signals. if you mess with us, there will be a big price to pay. >> let's talk about that for a moment. in the past when there's been talk of this leadership transition, when there's been talk of kim jong-il's bad health and possible incapacity at the leadership, they have coincided with missile launches, attacks on the islands in south korea and various shellings across -- artillery shellings across the border. now, obviously, the death of kim
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jong-il is way beyond any talk of his ill health or tension within the leadership. that then begs the question, will we see some kind of major military movement on the part of the north koreans, possibly deploying troops on the border, sending ships out. i don't know. what do you think? >> the north koreans have always used brinksmanship as one of their main tactics to achieve their political as well as military goals. they are going to want to send a very clear signal to the u.s. and to south korea. don't mess with us just because this has happened. and i think in south korea, you've had a government under president lee mung back which has taken a tough line towards north korea ever since he became president. and i think the koreans are deeply suspicious of the south. there may be some voices in south korea saying now is the moment to push the south koreans
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hard. i think the north koreans will do whatever they feel is necessary to prevent that from happening. i don't think the north koreans are interested in a fight. but they are going to be, i think, very clear in signaling don't construe the death of kim jong-il as a sign of weakness. there's an interesting parallel here. in 1994, kim il-sung died, two weeks after u.s. president jimmy carter visited pyongyang and brokered an understanding which led to a resumption of talks between north korea and the u.s. on that nuclear crisis of that period. i was in pyongyang. i used to work for cnn, as you know, with carter. i was in geneva covering u.s./north korean talks when kim il-sung died. there was all this talk about with his death, would the north koreans be impossible to deal with? and, in fact, by october of 1994, the north koreans and the u.s. reached an agreement.
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it was called the agreed framework under which the u.s. froze its nuclear program for eight years. so it's entirely possible that the north will continue to try to explore ways of moving forward diplomatically. the indications that we have had recently were that the north koreans were talking with the americans about suspending their uranium enrichment program in return for the united states providing several hundred thousand tons of food aid as sort of initial steps leading to the resumption of six-party talks. i suspect the north koreans might still want to explore that, but to do it in a context where they make it very clear that people should not think that they are an easy, soft target, more vulnerable to pressure now. the instinct in this kind of system given the intense nationalism that you have in north korea, given the degree to which the north korean system is built around this personality cult and worship of a god-like
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leader, the intension, i think, is going to be very much for the time being rally around the flag, hunker down, send very clear signals, don't mess with us. we can tough this out. and we're not anybody's pushover. >> if i can steal your line you once shared with me as far as elite in the north korean military. at a time like this, they all hang together or they'll all hang separately. when you have a situation with north korea, using brinksmanship and the wires nour reporting the south korean government has ordered all government workers on to emergency alert, including the military. having said that, there's no reports of any unusual military activity on the north korean side of the border, though. this makes, as wolf blitzer said, for a very, very tense and very dangerous period. >> i think that's true. i think it is a dangerous period. but it's not necessarily only a dangerous period because of actions being taken by the north koreans. i think there is a tremendous
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potential for misunderstanding. you just mentioned the south koreans putting their military on alert. it's a gnarl thing. it's a natural understandable response. but if the north koreans misinterpret any attempts by south korea to put its forces on alert, as somehow being aimed at targeting them, then you can see some pushback. the south koreans, this past -- just some weeks ago held live fire exercises in the vicinity of that island in the sea off the western coast of korea which the north koreans shelled. the south koreans have -- are not beyond their own kind of muscle flexing. so i think it's going to take very skillful management and very careful management and very high level communications. i think there are going to be some other interesting things to watch for, for example. one is, are the south koreans --
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is south korea's president going to express a formal condolences at the death of kim jong-il. in 1994 when kim il-sung died, the then south korean president refused to express condolences. he was confess condolence? so forth, and that poisoned north korea' relations with the government and when president clinton did express condolence, it made a very, very big difference and indeed that is something that the north korea an mentioned. this will be a test for the obama administration, how are they going to handle this? they could further undermine the already slim prospects of progress. a lot of the way which the u.s. and south korea in terms of what
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they say will have a significant effect in shaping the reaction. if they are going to put the squeeze on them now, i think you will see the push back. because you raised a couple of interesting points. they will take some skillful management and crucial to that will be what beijing plan to do. of course, it is the best friend to north korea. they are reporting the news there, and stan, beijinbeijing' reaction and the influence they have on them will be crucial. >> what is going to be interesting is the lot that it shines on the relationship between the united states and china. remember last year when they showed the island a


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